There’s an interesting moment early in the episode in which Crystal and Gad bicker backstage about a remark Gad improvs during a sketch. The line implies that the character Crystal played is a pedophile, which strikes Gad as hilarious, but reads to Crystal as detrimental to the ridiculous, but consistent character (a cannibal cub scout leader) he was trying to embody. Breaking down a joke is usually the best way to kill it, but a show about people trying to reconcile different views on comedy has a lot of potential.
Hopefully, The Comedians will become something like that shortly, or at least find some other identity soon. As is, the behind-the-curtains satire used as the show’s deepest comic well offers nothing but softball jokes about the egos and appetites of the rich and famous. The funniest bit in the pilot is just a small act of physical comedy reserved for the credits tag, but it’s the sort of simple gag you can’t build on, so the script tacks on another lazy swipe at L.A. diet trends to pad things out.
Crystal is fine as the exasperated half of the duo, his buffoonery more a product of being out-of-touch than outright narcissism. It’s harder to get a feel for what Gad’s trying to do, as he’s good at playing likeably desperate, not brazenly so. The pilot makes it unclear whether we’re supposed to laugh with, or at the two, alone or separately. Writing intentionally unfunny comedy is about the only thing harder than writing intentionally funny comedy, but if the plan is to embrace the former, the badness of the show-within-a-show’s sketches will have to be more inspired than what’s presented upfront (an example fake sketch: what if your spotter at the gym wore unrestrictive shorts!).
The pilot hints at a few character relationships outside the Gad-Crystal dynamic. A late reveal could act as a springboard into more interesting discussions of comedy in the 21st century, or just as easily as a source of hacky material. Hopefully once the setup is out of the way, the show can start looking for less obvious jokes, and use its format for something other than nonsensical cutaway gags. As is though, the rocky start of The Comedians will at least make you even more appreciative of that episode of Louie you get to watch.
Beneath the played-out showbiz satire of The Comedians is the spark of something unique, but familiarity is what's on offer in the series premiere.